Each morning many of us wake up in a panic. Others feel it at night and can’t fall asleep. It’s not that there are no words to describe the pandemic; it’s that we’re making them up as we go along. We can’t do this alone. We need human connection, and we most definitely need our weed. But just as 4:20 smoke seshes have gone digital, the way we use cannabis is changing. Due to coronavirus concerns over lung health, inhalation is out, and edibles are in. 

Because COVID-19 testing availability is crap to non-existent, it’s hard to say for sure which cannabis users have it. “I’m still waiting on an antibody test to confirm, but I believe I first came in contact with coronavirus at the end of January,” says founder and “Chief Conspirator” of sex and cannabis club NSFW Daniel Saynt. “I got a fever and felt like I was getting pneumonia. It became difficult to laugh or cough without being in pain, and it felt like there was a knot in my lungs.” During this time, Saynt decided that it was probably best to reduce how often he smoked. “I cut out joints and went to edibles. I kept up with the edibles for a few more days, mainly to help me sleep at night as it was difficult to do so as my body was in constant pain.”

Yes, some people who experience COVID-19 symptoms continue to use cannabis. Of course, they do. And the doctor says that’s okay. “I think that the idea of using cannabis for the discomfort of coronavirus makes perfect sense,” says Harvard cannabis specialist Jordan Tishler, MD.“I’ve had instances where we used cannabis, typically orally, to treat aches and pains related to surgery. I think cannabis can be helpful for anything that causes general discomfort and malaise.” 

Shannon McGrew, owner, and Editor-In-Chief of Nightmarish Conjurings, found out a few weeks ago that she has bronchitis. “I was like well, I can’t smoke, because I’m coughing all the time, so I’ll start eating edibles. It was around the time when the virus was starting to make headway,” McGrew had all the symptoms for COVID-19 except a fever, so she thinks the pain she experienced was a combination of her pre-existing fibromyalgia and bronchitis “I decided last week that I was going to hold off on smoking because it is a respiratory disease. As somebody who has health issues, I didn’t want to exacerbate them by smoking all the time, so I’ve been trying to do edibles.” For McGrew, in addition to the rapid onset time of inhalation, she missed her smoking routine the most. “I had a ritual down with smoking,” McGrew says. I’m somebody who works a lot, so I don’t smoke during the day. I’d go out on my patio, and I would smoke and read. It was this way of calming down after a crazy day. So that was probably the biggest switch for me. People are like, go outside anyway, and I’m like, it’s not the same.”

Maintaining A Semblance of Normalcy in Times That Are Anything But Normal

Telling you to stick with your routine is impossible. Our habits are now memories. We may mourn them, but to keep our joy (and joy is everything), we must adapt. There is no other option. For many cannabis users, that means putting down the OG stinky joint or the modern problematic vape pen in place of new methods of intake. In cannabis lore, edibles are an unpredictable creature. You might feel nothing, or you might have a trip harder than taking five and a half tabs of acid. COVID-19 attacks the lungs, making inhalation the method of intake to fear. “If somebody were infected with COVID, I would probably avoid inhalation at that point,” Dr. Tishler says. “But if somebody is otherwise healthy and we have no reason to believe that they are infected with COVID, then I think taking them off a successful inhalation regimen would probably be not appropriate.” 

Many will say not to use any cannabis if you believe you have coronavirus. It would be easy to tell everyone not to, as there is no research on using cannabis with COVID-19. But that is an unrealistic request that would deny that cannabis is a safe substance that offers pain relief, especially through the full-body high of an edible. “It’s always easy if you ask somebody with an MD after their name, ‘Should we do this?’ the safest answer is ‘No, don’t do it,’” Dr. Tishler says.I’m not sure that’s based in science and thinking beyond the immediate question and thinking about the bigger picture of what life is like for that patient.” 

There has been some debate over cannabis and the immune system. “There have been all these discussions on the web about cannabinoids being immunosuppressants and how it probably wouldn’t be safe if you had COVID,” Dr. Tishler says. “Well, cannabinoids are immunosuppressant in the laboratory, but it’s never been shown in human beings.” 

If you’re going to make the switch, stick with the rules the cannabis community has always promoted. Start low. If you’re new to edibles, start with 5mg and move up to 10mg, as McGrew did. Patients who use cannabis for pain now also need it for anxiety. The same rules apply as they normally would. While cannabis does wonders for some anxiety patients, for others, THC can exacerbate anxiety. Start low and go slow. Take comfort in the familiarity of such advice. It’s hard to tell you not to overindulge, because we all are trying to survive this with whatever we can, but prioritize your health. That includes using cannabis responsibly. Don’t ruin your relationship with weed by taking advantage of it. 

Relief From Physical and Mental Ailments

Cannabis and its pain-relieving and anti-anxiety properties are also helping people with quarantine. Even if you don’t get COVID-19, you are exposed to the economy-ruining, isolating, terrifying effects the virus has on all of society. 

“I always have CBD topicals on hand when I work from home,” says publicist Melissa A Vitale. “TribeREVIVE’s CBD Pain Relief Cream sits in the same console on my desk next to my recorder for calls, my eye drops for tired eyes and my ashtray since I’m a medical cannabis patient and consume throughout the day.” She says that since going into quarantine, she only used topicals when needed, but now uses them regularly multiple times throughout the day. “Since I’ve been crouched in front of my computer more than usual, I want to make sure I have something to break up the day and also ease the tension that forms from sitting in one place for so long,” Vitale says. 

We already see these trends affect the industry. Reports show that edible sales are up 28 percent. “In my humble opinion not only as an edible producer but as a cannabis enthusiast and smoker, it is a great time to explore edibles and give your lungs a bit of a break,” says Roxanne Dennant, co-founder and CEO of Fruit Slabs.

It’s hard to predict if this will be a lasting trend because morbidly, many of us in the industry are worried about our jobs, health, and livelihood. Studies are being done on cannabis users and COVID-19, but right now, we have to get through this one day at a time. The industry saw a win when dispensaries (with laws varying state to state) was deemed an essential business, but still, we’re all struggling and can use all the joy we can get. If there was ever a time to embrace gummy bears that also make you feel like heaven for up to eight hours, now is it.

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